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What is Surf Skating and Why Is It So Popular in Phuket?

What is Surf Skating and Why Is It So Popular in Phuket?

What is Surf Skating and Why Is It So Popular in Phuket?
by Jeremie Schatz,
26 August 2021

Just as sure as the sun rises and sets, fads too come and go with their often short-lived cycles. Combined with our ever-shrinking attention spans, some things in popular culture scarcely survive longer than the news cycle. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of us have bared witness to Thailand’s latest craze – surf skating. 

A group of surf skaters along Thaland Road in Phuket Town

Surtskate in phuket | Credit: Siangtai.com

What Is It?

Those not “in the know” might assume at first glance that it’s simply skateboarding. While the equipment might look the same to the casual observer, it is quite different with a separate goal in mind. A normal skateboard, or what is sometimes called a freestyle skateboard, is the classic design conjured in all minds when envisioning a skateboard. These are designed for all of the technical tricks seen on the street and in skateparks; the maneuvers you may have recently seen performed when skateboarding made its recent debut in the olympics. 

A woman pointing to a skate boards on a wall in Lai Lang Surf & Skate shop

LAI LANG Surf & Skate Phuket | Credit: Facebook page - Journeycalls Official

The most obvious difference in the equipment is that surf skateboards typically only have the tail turned upwards while normal skateboards have both the nose and tail turned up. The other major deviation is the trucks, or the metal parts underneath that act as axles and steering. Surf skateboard trucks have different geometry and are intended to be quite loose enabling rapid turning. This turning is called carving. When smoothly carving side to side in an “s” pattern, the rider can generate speed. This technique mimics the movements and sensation of actual surfing, hence the name surf skating. In fact, the activity/sport was developed by surfers as a way to have fun and pass time when the surfing was no good. 

Where To Do It

The basics of surf skating can be done on any smooth cement surface, which is one reason behind the activity’s popularity: it’s very accessible. All over Thailand you’ll see empty parking lots and basketball courts swarming with skaters of all ages and backgrounds wiggling back and forth. Last year there was a photo that went semi-viral of a Phuket Police officer surf skating down a Phuket Town street during a parade. 

Kids skating around the track at Blue Tree Phuket

Blue Tree Pump Track | Credit: Sanamseek.com

In response to the overnight craze, surf skate parks are being constructed at breakneck speeds. These parks have features liked banked walls where more advanced surfing-like maneuvers can be performed. Some are designed as loops where one can generate speed, make banked turns, and end up back where they began. Others are like smooth, empty swimming pools. 

There are many in Phuket already including at Blue Tree (and are currently being expanded), near the Sarasin Bridge, beside the Rawai Princess Hotel, behind Super Burger in Rawai, at Reun Rom in Kata, and even more in Khao Lak. 

Spectators watching a skating event on the beach road in Kata

Amazing Thailand Phuket Surfskate Series 2021 in Kata | Credit: Siangtai.com

Why Now?

Before the Covid-19 pandemic began, surfing wasn’t an overly popular activity in Thailand, especially amongst Thais. Since light-colored skin is preferred and a surprising amount of the local population are not strong swimmers, surfing didn’t seem very appealing. However, the tides are slowly shifting with younger generations less concerned with light skin. This combined with the sudden ability to work remotely, or having no work, meant the ability to hang out near the beach. The inevitable social media firestorm ensued and surfing became insanely popular last year. Surf schools couldn’t keep up. However, surfing is quite difficult to learn, requiring a significant time investment and the spillover into surf skating was born.